Northumberland towns could get up to £3m each for regeneration

Microbreweries, independent shops and cycle paths could be at the heart of plans to regenerate neglected towns across Northumberland.

Tuesday, 13th July 2021, 3:43 pm
Updated Tuesday, 13th July 2021, 4:11 pm
Alnwick is expected to be in the first wave of towns to receive a £3m regeneration package.

County bosses have identified seven areas which they think would see the most benefit from a multi-million pound government scheme offering targeted cash injections worth up to £3million each.

And it is hoped this could breathe new life into communities with investment into key sites left vacant or derelict and finding new uses for them.

“I think we see a lot of cultural [attractions], and probably housing as well, coming back into the town centres, to increase the footfall,” said Janice Rose, Northumberland County Council’s head of Economy and Regeneration.

Rothbury is expected to follow after a first wave of towns to receive a £3m regeneration package.

“I think we’ll see a lot of work on cycle initiatives to make the town centres a more attractive place for people to stay longer.

“The independent trader, I think, still has a role to play and it’s about how we can help that retail continue.

“And the other thing is pubs and restaurants, in some places the shutters come down at about 6pm and the place becomes quite a bad place to visit, so you can change that dynamic as well with things like micro breweries and trying to help the entrepreneurs out there.”

Rose was speaking at Monday’s meeting of the council’s Corporate Services and Economic Growth Overview and Scrutiny Committee, which was held in person but also live streamed via YouTube.

The latest scheme has been pulled together as part of the Borderlands Growth Deal, a £450million government scheme targeting the five local authorities either side of the England-Scotland border, – Carlisle City Council, Cumbria County Council, Dumfries and Galloway Council, Scottish Borders Council and Northumberland County Council.

Ministers of the UK and Scottish Governments and representatives of the five councils signed the Borderlands Inclusive Growth Deal at a virtual ceremony in March. Its aim was to bring a transformative step change for businesses and communities by increasing productivity, growing the working age population, and delivering a more inclusive economy.

Within this, £50million has been set aside for the initiative’s Place Programme, of which Northumberland has been allocated £12million, although this may be boosted further by county council funds.

Out of more than 100 towns across the Borderlands area, seven have been identified as suitable for a ‘Place Plan’ in Northumberland, which may then be further developed into an investment plan, attracting funding worth up to £3million.

As well as the purchase and regeneration of key sites and buildings, it could also be used to convert unused spaces above shops into flats or developing arts and cultural events.

Alnwick, Bedlington and Newbiggin are first in line, with Haltwhistle, Bellingham, Prudhoe and Rothbury expected to follow, while experts work on a planned ‘Hadrian’s Wall Programme’ at the same time.

The proposals were praised for including Bedlington Station in proposals for Bedlington, as well as for recognising challenges facing Alnwick.

“On Alnwick, yes, they have the castle and the gardens,” said panel chairman Cllr John Beynon. “But the town centre is suffering because of the out-of-town shopping.

“Also, as the gardens and the castle aren’t in the centre, they draw people away from the centre.”